People who dislike innards aren’t necessarily logical or consistent about their distaste. Why is liver fine (and some like only foie gras but are disgusted by veal or chicken liver) but heart is not? Some are OK with sweetbreads but horrified at the thought of eating lung or kidney.
Each type of innard has its own texture (one of the reasons I like them) and they are usually more strongly flavoured than other types of meat (another plus). Other reasons to seek them out: they tend to be economical (well, not foie gras or sweetbreads) and score highly in the ethics of not wasting food. After all, if you are going to kill an animal for food, the whole thing should be eaten, not just the prime cuts.
Stir-fried chicken hearts with Chinese sausage and dried mushrooms
You can make this with chicken hearts only or with a combination of hearts, gizzards and livers. With both, you can buy enough to feed two or three (because innards are hearty) for about HK$70.
4-6 dried mushrooms, depending on size
450 grams chicken hearts (or hearts, gizzards and livers)
2 laap cheong (air-dried Chinese sausages)
1 thin slice fresh ginger, peeled
2-3 garlic cloves
2 banana chillies
4 spring onions
10ml soy sauce
10ml rice wine
¼ tsp granulated sugar
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
A pinch of ground white pepper
2 tsp cornstarch
Oil, for stir-frying
Rinse the mushrooms briefly under running water, then trim off the stems. Put the mushroom caps in a bowl of warm water and leave for several hours, or until they are fully hydrated, turning them over occasionally.
If using only chicken hearts, squeeze them so any blood inside is extracted. If using a combination, squeeze the chicken hearts to remove the blood; trim off and discard any tough parts from the gizzards, then cut them in half; and separate the two lobes of the liver and cut away any connective tissue and visible veins.
Squeeze the liquid from the mushroom caps and slice them about 6mm thick. Slice the laap cheong and banana chillies on the diagonal into 5mm-thick pieces. Thinly slice the garlic. Cut the spring onions into 4cm lengths. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, sea salt and pepper. Put the cornstarch into another small bowl and add about 50ml of the liquid used to soak the mushrooms.
Heat a wok over a high flame and when it’s hot, add about 10ml of cooking oil. Swirl the wok so the surface is lightly coated with oil. Add the ginger, garlic and banana chillies and stir-fry for about 15 seconds. Add the spring onion, stir briefly to coat with the oil, then remove the ingredients from the wok. Heat the wok again over a high flame and add the laap cheong. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pieces are lightly browned. dd the chicken hearts (or hearts, gizzards and liver) and stir-fry until the ingredients start to lose their pink colour. Add the sliced mushrooms then pour in the soy sauce/rice wine seasoning mixture, stir briefly, then scrape the ingredients to the centre of the wok. Turn the flame to low, cover the wok with the lid and simmer for several minutes, or until the innards are almost fully cooked, stirring occasionally.
Remove the lid and turn the flame to high. Add the ginger, garlic, chilli and spring onion back into the wok and mix briefly. Stir the cornstarch and soaking liquid mixture and drizzle about half of it into the wok and mix well. The sauce should lightly coat the ingredients; if it’s too thin, drizzle in more of the cornstarch mixture. Taste for seasonings and adjust, if needed. Scoop the ingredients onto a serving plate and serve with steamed white rice and stir-fried green vegetables. Serves four as part of a Chinese meal.
Chicken liver pâté
Innards tend to be more palatable to the squeamish if it isn’t obvious that they are organ meats. I’ve given many versions of chicken liver pâté over the years and I still play around with the recipe. This one has lots of butter – don’t be horrified at the amount because it really adds a delicious creaminess to the pâté. The recipe also calls for clarified butter, which is something I rarely make myself. Instead, I buy a version of it from Indian shops, where it’s called ghee. The fish sauce is an unusual addition, but you don’t really taste it; it adds a rich umami flavour.
500 grams chicken livers
200 grams unsalted butter, slightly softened, divided
3 medium-sized shallots, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
One small sprig of fresh thyme
20ml fish sauce
60ml brandy or cognac
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Clarified butter, to seal the pâté
Trim off and discard the dark spots, veins and connective tissue from the livers, then cut them into small, even pieces. Rinse them briefly with cold water, then blot up as much moisture as possible with paper towels.
Heat 30 grams of butter in a skillet set over a low flame. When the butter melts, add the shallots and garlic and cook until soft and translucent, stirring often. Turn the heat to high and add the chicken livers, thyme sprig and fish sauce. Season with salt and cook, stirring often, until the livers are about three-quarters cooked – they should be pink at the centre. Use a slotted spoon to remove the livers from the skillet, leaving behind as much liquid as possible. Discard the thyme sprig. Place the pan back over a high flame and carefully add the brandy or cognac – it might ignite. Simmer until reduced by half.
Put the chicken livers and reduced liquid into a food processor and process until smooth. With the motor running, add in the remaining butter in 15-gram chunks through the feed tube. Let each chunk of butter incorporate before adding more. When all the butter has been added, season the mixture with black pepper, then taste for seasonings and add salt, if needed. Pack the pâté into ramekins and smooth the top. Melt some clarified butter and pour over the pâté to seal it completely. Refrigerate for several hours before eating with crackers or crusty bread. If well-sealed, the pâté keeps for a week or two in the fridge.